Culver City Observer -

 
 

By Lynne Bronstein
Observer Reporter 

Six Vie For Four Council Seats

 

April 6, 2012



Voters To Choose On Tuesday

Jim Clarke

A 17-year Culver City resident, Jim Clarke currently works as Director, Mayor’s Office of Grants for the City of Los Angeles. He helps to secure grant funding and oversees $611 million of federal stimulus funds.

He previously headed the City of Los Angeles’ federal relations program, which required frequent contact with members of the U.S. Senate and members of Congress.

Clarke also served as chief of staff to two Congressional representatives from the Los Angeles area—Brad Sherman and Diane E. Watson (both of whom have endorsed Clarke for City Council).

Clarke has been walking precincts to ask citizens about their concerns. Through these walks he has learned about the top issues and has come up with some ideas about solutions.

One issue is parking in the downtown area. “The residents pointed out that it is mostly the employees who work in the businesses located there who park on the side streets,” says Clarke. “In my view this is a problem that can be resolved working with the other Council members when I am elected to the Council.”

Another concern is funding for Culver City schools. Clarke notes that since there is no more help from Redevelopment, he wants to work with the School Board to find other funding sources to enhance the District’s budget.

“Currently, I serve as Director, Mayor’s Office of Grants for the City of Los Angeles. I help secure federal, state, non-profit and foundation grants which gives me the knowledge and experience to help with the funding shortfall in the City.”

Tree maintenance was another issue that Clarke heard about during his walks.

“Due to a shortage of City funds, repair has been delayed with a prioritized waiting list. It is important that we maintain our streets and sidewalks keep our trees trimmed. This is a safety and quality issue. We have to work with available resources and research additional funding to accelerate completion of the necessary repairs,” he said.

Clarke has an idea for the fiscal future of Culver City, based on the popularity of the IndieCade festival that is held in the city every autumn.

“Let’s make Culver City the hub of the videogaming industry. As your Councilmember, I’ll make a concerted effort to attract a cluster of gaming businesses to locate in Culver City. These are high-tech, high-paying, clean industry jobs that appeal to young and bright individuals who will be attracted to our downtown restaurants and nightlife.”

He wants to continue and enhance cultural and artistic programs through what he calls “Culver City Proud” which will encourage residents to financially support local organizations and events.

A resident homeowner at Raintree, Jim Clarke has been endorsed by U.S. Congress members Karen Bass, Diane Watson, and Brad Sherman; State Senator Curren Price; State Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell; Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; and by many current and former members of the Culver City Council and School Board.

Scott Malsin

Scott Malsin was elected to the City Council in 2006 and re-elected in 2010. In December 2011, he resigned from the Council in what was seen as a controversial move to avoid losing health benefits. His resignation left the Council with a two-year seat to fill. If elected in this go-round, Malsin may win either a two-year or four-year term.

Malsin, who graduated from Yale in 1981, lists his occupation as web site developer. His involvement with Culver City issues began with Culver West tree planting projects that resulted in 93 street trees being planted in west Culver City. He was also Co-Chair of the Fiesta La Ballona in 2003 and a member and past president of the Culver City Exchange Club.

On one of the city’s most pressing issues, Malsin says: “There’s no question our City budget is our major concern.” He points out that growing the economy is what is needed, as well as a way to replace the funding provided by the former Redevelopment Agency. But he doesn’t see either budget cuts or a sales tax (“in order to generate sales tax to ‘close the gap,’ we’d need five Costco’s to open within the city limits. That’s how big the problem is”) as a solution.

Instead, Malsin suggests Culver City create a citywide “infrastructure improvement district” that would require a very modest assessment on property dedicated by law to pay for the maintenance of streets, sidewalks, street trees and street lights.

“I firmly believe we can keep the assessment to around $100 for an average homeowner, and there would be an exemption for people who cannot afford it; commercial property owners and businesses, which cause a greater impact on our streets, would pay somewhat more.”

Malsin also would like to see more funding for cultural programming. “I view our concerts, performances and special events as part of our quality of life, part of Culver City’s appeal to its residents, and part of the ‘brand’ people see when they look at us. If you wrap all of our arts funding together, it amounts to about a half a day’s worth of the City’s operating expenses. “

Malsin would also be continuing to act upon issues that he worked on during his former terms on the Council—sustainability issues (he advocated for the multi-family recycling program and helped craft Culver City’s part of the Energy Upgrade California program).

“I guess the simplest way to put it is: if you like what you’ve seen happening in Culver City, vote for me,” says Malsin. “I’ve helped shape the progress we’ve made over the last six years – actually 11 if you count my time on the Planning Commission.

“I think Culver City needs my leadership to handle the challenges we’re facing and to keep our progress as a community going strong.”

Malsin lives in west Culver City with his wife Anne and daughter Arden, who is currently a student at Farragut Elementary School.

He is endorsed by a list that includes current and former Council members Jeffrey Cooper, Richard Brundo, Alan Corlin, David Hauptman, Paul Jacobs, Steve Rose, Jozelle Smith and Ed Wolkowitz; Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas ,; California State Senator Curren Price; Culver City Firefighters Association, and Culver City Chamber of Commerce.

Stephen Murray

Stephen Murray is an Energy and Sustainability consultant and shareholder of Sunstruction Inc ., a contracting business. He has been a college teacher, technology consultant, and producer at the computer gaming company Electronic Arts.

Murray says of himself: “I am the efficiency candidate.” He also describes himself as a “left-leaning libertarian.” His campaign goals include guiding Culver City to achieving “world-class sustainability,” balancing costs against revenue and implementing best practices to increase City efficiency, and increasing quality-of-life while sustaining a small-town feel.

In regard to the budget, Murray would “directly address our ongoing $4.5M structural deficit by redoubling efficiency improvements, expenditure reduction, private/public partnerships, grants and focused special district creation.”

He would use comparative benchmarks from other California cities to increase city department efficiency and reduce expenditures. He wants to link tax revenues to the appropriately relevant social services (for example, T.O.T. tax revenues would go to Community Development, Tourism and Safety). With the budget balanced, Murray would want to create special/and/or assessment districts to guarantee stable funding for critical services.

Murray also hopes to create a Green Commission/Task Force to guide the city on issues of sustainability. He would follow Los Angeles County’s lead on reducing plastic bag waste and polystyrene container restrictions “where economically feasible.”

In regard to community building and preserving the small-town feeling of Culver City, Murray wants to “address pedestrian endangerment at Jefferson Blvd/Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook with or without LA County grant or State Park’s assistance; balance neighborhood traffic congestion with traffic calming needs…. facilitate creation of smart, affordable housing opportunities that increases a neighborhood’s quality of life and mitigates traffic issues; introduce more neighborhood vehicle speed activated signs as opposed to additional “Red Light” cameras; and facilitate walk and bike choices throughout city, not just downtown.”

Murray lives in Blanco Park with his wife and two children.

Micheal (Mehaul) O’Leary

The current Mayor of Culver City, known for his often witty quips during Council meetings, Micheál (Mehaul) O’ Leary is a native of Dublin, Ireland who came to the U.S. with $700 in pocket money. He worked in the restaurant business and eventually came to Culver City where he opened Joxer Daly’s Irish Pub.

Elected to the City Council in 2008, O‘Leary had previously been on the Culver City Sister City Committee. He has also served on the Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority and has been the Council’s liaison for transportation.

His volunteerism includes the Culver City Lions Club, Culver City Elks Lodge, Culver City Homeowners Association, St. Augustine’s Parish, Celtic Arts Center, and Rancho Higuera and East Culver City Neighborhood Alliance.

O’ Leary’s top priorities for the Council, if re-elected, are support for the police and fire departments; keeping neighborhoods vibrant, safe, and clean; and advocating sensible and sustainable growth.

He promises to “keep our budget balanced and will continue to find ways to protect our city services and quality of life.”

O ‘Leary and his wife Susan live in the Rancho Higuera area. He is endorsed by fellow Council members Jeffrey Cooper, Andrew Weissman, and Christopher Armenta; former Culver City Mayors David Hauptman, Paul Jacobs, Richard A. Marcus, Steven J. Rose, Jozelle Smith, and Ed Wolkowitz; Culver City Firefighters Association; Culver City Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors; Culver City Employees Association; Mark Ridley-Thomas, LA County Supervisor, 2nd District;

Curren Price Jr ., State Senator, 26th Senate District; and Holly Mitchell, Assembly Member, 47th Assembly District.

Meghan Sahli-Wells

Meghan Sahli-Wells grew up in Culver City and was involved with political activism at an early age. As a student, she fought against apartheid and racism with the L.A. Student Coalition, and registered people to vote

“because I've always believed in democratic action and participation.”

She attended UCLA, studied in France, received bachelor’s degrees in World Arts and Cultures and French, and did graduate study at the

Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (School for the Advanced

Study of Social Sciences) in Paris, where she studied Visual Anthropology.

Sahil-Wells began her involvement with local issues in 2008, working with other residents to find a solution for safety and traffic problems with a proposed development. She was appointed to the Culver City Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee and the Advisory Committee on Redevelopment in in 2009 and was elected the Chair of the Downtown Neighborhood Association in 2010. She also ran for City Council in 2010, coming in third in the voting but not garnering enough votes for a Council seat.

In regard to the downtown area, Sahil-Wells notes that “Redevelopment has been a major factor in the success of Downtown Culver City. Its loss on February 1st of this year has left uncertainty about the much-awaited development of "Parcel B" (the empty lot between Trader Joe's and the Culver Hotel) and the arts funding which has helped fuel our city's success and ‘destination’ status.”

She wants to make sure there will be two-hour free parking in public lots. “If we want to support our downtown businesses, people need to be able to access our downtown easily, safely, and pleasantly. Bus, bike and pedestrian access are important, as can be a shuttle service, if it's done well.”

On the budget: “A cuts-only budget will seriously threaten our services…. We need to lay out our budget with absolute clarity and transparency; consolidate services where we can to avoid redundancy and make the best use of our resources; prioritize local businesses in our city's bidding process; and let residents know that when they buy locally, they help pay for their services and schools…..City employees on all levels should be incentivized to increase efficiency and lower costs; while the perks of upper management need to be seriously evaluated.”

Sahli-Wells has also been an outspoken advocate for taking safety measures about oil drilling in the hills near Culver City. “ It is chilling to see that ‘fracking’ has already happened in Culver City's backyard in the Inglewood Oil fields, and there are plans to do more. Whereas studies have shown that fracking has provoked seismic activity and led to water contamination: this oil field is on a fault line, adjacent to the Ballona Creek watershed.

Furthermore, in drought-plagued Southern California, fracking is water-intensive. Our city needs to do its utmost to protect the health, safety and welfare of its residents, which includes ensuring the most careful monitoring and regulation of the fields it can possibly do.”

Meghan Sahli-Wells lives in the downtown area of Culver City with her husband and two children.

She is endorsed by the Culver City Democratic Club; Culver City Employees Association; National Women’s Political Caucus Los Angeles Westside; U.S. Congresswoman Karen Bass; State Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell; L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas; current Council member Christopher Armenta; and all five members of the Culver City School Board.

Andrew Weissman

“I have been part of this community practically my whole life,” says Andrew Weissman. His family came to Culver City shortly after his birth.

Weissman graduated from Culver City High in 1968. He began his career as a lawyer by working for his father’s firm, Arkin and Weissman (founded in Culver City in 1950).

In addition to having served on the Council for four years, Weissman has served on the Planning Commission, Civil Service Commission, and Human Services and Parks Commission. He has chaired the Charter Review Committee and Citizens for Measure V, and was president of both the Downtown Business Association and Chamber of Commerce.

“For me, the dominating issues are all quality of life inter-related,” observes Weissman. He defines the dominating issues as “finances and the impact of that on the community’s quality of life and levels of City provided service…”

Known on the Council for his detailed probes into finances, Weissman is concerned about the City’s future budget. He wants to “continue to promote responsible economic development to generate the revenues necessary to pay for those services. Economic development will be made significantly more difficult by the elimination of redevelopment.

“ Despite having reduced the city workforce by nearly 10% over the past two years, and despite having negotiated greater contributions from current employees to pensions and benefits, the City’s revenues continue to lag behind our expenses.”

Despite economic challenges however, Weissman says he is committed to maintaining “exceptional service levels” for municipal services such as the police and fire departments. “Our exceptional service levels directly affect the quality of level the community enjoys, directly affects our property values, and our ability to retain and attract business.”

He is proud that the Council achieved new labor agreements that reduce the cost for pensions and benefits for the City, and that his suggestion helped the Council to reduce retiree medical benefits for the currently sitting Council.

If re-elected, Weissman hopes to see the Council hold meetings “with the community, all of the community, not merely those who scream the loudest or the longest or with the most passionate sense of real or manufactured outrage, to discuss the City’s financial position, the services we provide, the programs we offer and support, what else we may want to do and how to prioritize them, given the City’s finances.”

Weissman has been married to Doneil for 25 years, has five children and five grandchildren. He is endorsed by L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas; CCUSD Board Chair Laura Chardiet; Council members Christopher Armenta and Jeffrey Cooper; U.S. Congress member Karen Bass; Culver City Chamber of Commerce; Culver City Employees Association; Culver City Firefighters Association; and Los Angeles County Democratic Party.

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